Water, A Multipronged Asset

This article is about the sustainable use, reuse and maintenance of one of our biggest assets: water.

We’ve been on this planet for close to 200,000 years but never has it been more understood how the mysterious substance, water, ultimately derived from rain and freshwater bodies depends on our maintaining of its cycle. It runs our cities and needs more attention, we’ll explore how we can ensure the future is bright.

While introducing the subject of water, I thought I’d let you in on a fun fact. The words for plain water in Malaysian slang are sky juice. It should make sense since one of the main sources for fresh drinking water in the tropics is rain aside rivers, lakes and wells. Have you ever wondered what went on in the mind of the first humans when they, marvelling at the sight of the heavens, were flooded with gushing streams of this “sky juice”? Rain has been, for the most part, a subject of myth, wonder and fiction during much of human existence. Women and men have prayed for rain, some had even made dances for it, and while the ancients had some appreciation of the providence afforded to them by sky juice as it made its way unto our terrain, the present world has become entirely unabsorbed neither taken aback by water’s seemingly unlimited potential.

Today, many of our underground reserves from which we get our water are running low, and if they continue to do so, whole cities will fall victim to sinking due to the absence of the water that would have been holding the bedrock in place. This may catalyze the inland movement of coastlines for many coastal cities. This article, whilst addressing water, seeks to afford the reader perhaps a connection to and a glimpse of what the ancients shared when they marveled at the sky, that water in the form of rain, such a powerful multidimensional asset should pour from the heavens above, to nourish their lands and cattle, to replenish their streams, and to quench them of their thirst without much of an investment on their part.

We will home in on key investment strategies in the corpus of sustainable water usage that may help offset the growing water demand; starting with the least expensive ideas to the ones that will require the most time and resources. Feel free to stop at any time to ask yourself what you can do to improve the world and what solutions you can provide to help the world transition to a sustainable future.

Ad vitam.

Let’s pour into water.

Stocks

Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash

When considering multiple investment strategies, one might be tempted to stop and consider how to profit from investing in water stocks. There has been a growing obsession over water stocks in the past years as some investment funds, foreseeing water scarcity as the next big thing, have chosen to invest in water. A genius who cracked Wall Street’s financial problems in ’08 to profit from the recession had at one point staked his own entire investment portfolio on assets to do with water, foreseeing it as likely to reign in millions for him.

The growing concern over water scarcity as depicted in films such as Mad Max and Rango provides investors with real power in the present to make an impact on future resources while turning a profit in the longrun before the onset of such scenarios. How one can invest in water would be through directly owning stocks or ETFs. ETFs mirror real stocks and allow you to buy several stocks with as little money as possible. Such stocks and ETFs would focus on the process of transporting water, harvesting water or providing water. A few examples of stocks one could purchase from the water supply and logistics/demand industry would include stocks from companies such as American Water Works Co Inc., Danaher Corp, Xylem Inc/NY, Pentair PLC, Veolia Environment SA, Geberit AG, Idex Corp, Suez Water Technologies, United Utilities Group PLC, Severn Trent PLC.

Businesses

Investing in water might not necessarily be done through owning stocks that deal directly with water as mentioned above, it may mean investing in businesses impacted directly with the water market, for instance as noted in Investor Mint one could invest in almonds and food crops which are poised to experience heightened demand due to the scarcity of water. This scarcity of water would drive out smaller almond growers and mean more demand for the crop. Agricultural businesses are a safe bet when dealing with the scarcity of water, realized by one’s predictive modelling.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

When dealing with agriculture and water sustainability, farmers could employ a variety of farming techniques to create a system of proper water usage. Aquaponics and hydroponics are a great tool for this. Although current costs for setup and the regular electricity bill for lighting should be factored in, one could be use such pods and equipment for indoor farming improving the circulation of water by a hundredfold. Even outdoor farming would benefit from minimizing water usage. This could be implemented via drip irrigation and other technologies such as camera-carrying-drones and soil pH and moisture sensors to efficiently assign fertilizer and water where it is needed the most.

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

An investment oft overlooked in sustainable water use and reuse lies in the treatment and safe repurpose of waste water. Though safe to use, rarely do developing countries and cities invest large sums in this form of water recycling to curb their own demand. Managing waste water is another great investment strategy poised to reign in millions while saving up on the otherwise abused less sustainable tapping of underground resources. Such resources need to be supplemented with alternative sources of water so they will not run out.

Technologies

Satellite modules

Starting with the most outrageous tech to the simplest, we’ll explore satellite modules. These satellite modules would be retrofitted with their own thrusters and drills to facilitate the mining of space asteroids. This would save billions through the sustainable extraction and supply of water for future space missions. This is not to say that everything on Earth is fine and there is no further room for innovation, but the technological advancement for all humankind throughout the course of our space missions have greatly profited almost everyone on Earth, from the discovery of life-saving medical treatment to the development of GPS. Space is key, so to unlock water in space should be a win for future sustainable water usage.

Astronauts try to reuse every single drop of water they take to space because it costs roughly $25,000 per gallon or $6,600 per litre to transport water to the ISS (International Space Station). This is if you consider launch costs per pound to equal $10,000, something SpaceX alone claims it can do. It currently touts a price of $9,100 per pound or $20,000 per kg when its Dragon cargo spacecraft is launched at full capacity. Rocket Lab offers $30,000 per kg, while other rocket companies attempt to finish developing their own versions of reusable rockets to catch up to the pair.

Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash

Unlocking space water as a minable resource allows companies like NASA to save a lot of money, and this is made possible by the plethora of companies currently looking into asteroid mining.

The mining of C-class asteroids presents just the opportunity needed to resupply NASA missions with the much needed “space-juice.” To do this would involve satellite modules capable of navigating to the intended asteroid, then tugging it to a safe orbit where it can be easily mined for resupply missions. There is serious money to be made here.

Photo by Margaux Olverd on Unsplash

Desalination

This is my favourite. Desalination is a no-brainer. To be able to curb world demand for freshwater we need to find a way to use the world’s oceans to supply us with freshwater while also making sure we invest in sustainably replenishing the cycle of freshwater we use. Already there are people and companies invested in making cheaper desalination plants. One such notable example is Manoj Bhargava, who poured huge sums of his own wealth into the “Rain Project” to build a device that could convert seawater into fresh drinkable water.

Manoj Bhargava — Rain Maker

The biggest problem with desalination is it is very expensive to build and manage current plants. This is why projects such as the one above would help ease global transitions into desalination offering a range of cheaper alternatives that would require much less of an investment. Another problem to be addressed that arises from desalination would be the removal of Iodine in the purified water. In countries heavily reliant on desalination such as Israel and Palestine, their population’s Iodine deficiency levels had at one point been at a high, although Palestine has taken care of the problem ever since adding Iodine to their salt and therefore marking their country’s Iodine status as adequate.

Electrolysis

This option involves the use of water in the splitting of Hydrogen from the Oxygen atom in a water molecule. Hydrogen can then be used for fuel while the Oxygen is released saving the environment from the use of fossil fuels. The only setback involved would have to do with the process involved in extracting the elements needed to build the car, such as the Lithium battery which would be used for energy storage, similar to that of electric vehicles which sometimes involves an extraction process which often ends up hurting the environment.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles (HFCVs) include a wide class of vehicles such as cars that run on Hydrogen. HFCVs currently use a different method to generate Hydrogen which is not as environmentally friendly as electrolysis. The process being referred to here is called steam reforming and it involves the production of millions of metric tonnes of CO2 emissions unless paired with Carbon Capture and Storage to curb the emissions which would however require another investment. For an in-depth study on other standalone clean technologies that can produce Hydrogen needed to power HFCVs apart from electrolysis, please refer here.

When considering electrolysis, we must remember its acceptancy is still in infancy. Aside from the lack of awareness to do with electrolysis, another problem to solve when dealing with HFCVs would be the many sceptical due to the risk posed when dealing with Hydrogen, a highly combustible and leaky substance. Due to its almost zero weight, it is hard to contain Hydrogen for long periods of time which is it is normally stored in its liquid form. However, even in liquid form it still proves very hard to ship which is why many rocket engineers choose alternate fuels instead of having to deal with the hassle of Hydrogen storage though it makes for a great rocket fuel.

Electrolysis would be the only remaining option for vehicular mobility in a future that is less reliant on fossil fuel reserves and on electric vehicles which may be more liable to hacking and shutting down in the case of a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection). I personally think it is a great time to go All-Electric which personally means I would totally own a Tesla, but thinking down the road, we need to start investing in even greener technologies.

Feel free to go here if you would like to learn more on Hydrogen fuel vehicles or here to learn more about how electrolysis can improve the extraction of Hydrogen to help the HFCEV industry.

Did I forget anything? Have your say in the comments below. Be a part of this conversation concerning how we can maximize all our efforts to enable the sustainable use and reusability of water till kingdom come.

Photo by Snapwire by Pexels

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I am a futurist. I write about global issues, with a strong emphasis on Africa and Fintech.

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TS

I am a futurist. I write about global issues, with a strong emphasis on Africa and Fintech.